Holiday, downtown activities among ideas proposed for revitalizing Blairsville
More than 35 citizens attended the Blairsville Community Development Authority's roundtable session last week. Several of those present proposed projects for enhancing the quality of life in town, and a number of them volunteered to take part in new or existing community revitalization efforts.
Connie Constantino, who recently helped to reorganize a Neighborhood Crime Watch program in Blairsville, expressed interest in serving on committees for developing promotional events in the downtown business district and for helping to coordinate the town's holiday Light Up Night festivities held each December.
Constantino suggested Blairsville could play host to various activities to draw visitors to the downtown area on a regular monthly basis during the summer. She proposed the first Friday of each month as a possible time when activities could be planned.
Local restaurants could be part of the event by offering outdoor food sales, she said: “It would be like the Strip District.”
Constantino recommended that activities be centered in an off-street location, citing the parking lot at East Market Street and East Lane as a possible spot. “That way you're not blocking off the streets” for motorists traveling to the activities, she said.
A car show and pet parade were among activities that have been held in Blairsville in the past that meeting attendees wanted to see reinstated. A farmers' market, a public swimming pool and the annual summer Diamond Days festival were other town amenities of the past that roundtable participants indicated they would like to see offered once more.
Inviting hobbyists to town to operate remote-controlled model cars and airplanes was suggested.
Patty Lance announced that plans are under way to continue the annual Fabulous Firs display of decorated trees that are exhibited at the Blairsville Community Center in conjunction with the town's Light Up Night. But, she indicated that the event, previously organized in a partnership with the Blairsville Quota Club, may now be conducted solely as a Blairsville Parks and Recreation effort.
As discussion turned to another popular holiday in town — Halloween, borough manager Tim Evans reported that plans have begun for organizing a “Haunted Walk” along the new Blairsville Riverfront Trail that opened last year.
Leann Chaney, executive director of the BCDA, suggested a pumpkin-carving contest as another possible activity. One woman in the audience observed that few residents in Blairsville turned on their porch lights to participate in distributing treats during last year's designated trick-or-treating hours. She suggested, as an alternative, having children come to a central location to receive treats.
Another atendee mentioned Thursday night band concerts that have become a summer tradition on a blocked-off section of West Market Street. He suggested developing similar activities to attract visitors to town during the remaining seasons of the year.
Most of Blairsville's downtown business district is concentrated along Market Street, which received a streetscaping makeover over the past few years. But Jim Meighan suggested that North Walnut Street, part of the town's other main drag, is overdue for attention. “The trees haven't been trimmed for a long time,” he said, adding that the sidewalks and stone retaining walls along that portion of the street could stand to be cleared of debris and cleaned.
BCDA board member and volunteer coordinator Carol Persichetti, who chaired the April 11 roundtable meeting, noted the authority has an Adopt-A-Street program that encourages volunteers to regularly clear litter from along streets in assigned areas. She said more volunteers are welcome to take part.
Meighan noted he is part of a group that picks up litter along the on-ramp to Route 22. He reported finding about 30 hypodermic needles while engaged in the task. “Let's get this under control,” he said of the drug trafficking and related paraphernalia that have become problems in town.
Persichetti cautioned that those who encounter needles in the borough should report them to 911 for proper disposal and should not attempt to pick them up.
Concern about stray needles posing a hazard to children was among issues that prompted reactivation of Blairsville's dormant Crime Watch program. According to Constantino, the next Crime Watch meeting will be held at 3 p.m. April 28 at the Blairsville fire hall.
Among suggestions posted on the BCDA's Facebook page were: organizing picnics in the borough's parks; having the borough repaint curbing and straighten bent signs along town streets; increasing the number of benches along Market Street, possibly through memorial donations; and providing increased opportunities for water sports by coordinating with the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the water level on the Conemaugh River.
Olivia Seich and local artist Joy Fairbanks discussed plans for “Blairsville Rocks” and “Tiny Town” public art projects.
A retired Blairsville art teacher, Fairbanks said a Blairsville Rocks rock-painting contest is being targeted for local students in grades 1-12 with information to be disseminated through the local schools.
She said the contest is meant to encourage students to complete the art project at home with parental supervision. According to the contest flyer and entry form, rocks may be any shape but should not exceed 5 pounds. It's recommended contestants use acrylic paint to decorate their rocks and apply a clear protective coating. Prizes ranging from $5 to $20 will be awarded in various categories including most unusual and best animal.
Finished rocks and entry forms are to be delivered between June 3 and June 7 at the BCDA office, 130 W. Market St., Blairsville. Winning entries will be displayed in the windows of Market Street Pastries, where some examples currently can be seen.
Fairbanks said other entries that are donated to BCDA may be displayed at the BCDA office, at the nearby town bandstand or along the Blairsville Riverfront Trail.
The BCDA also is hoping to create a “Tiny Town” along the trail by encouraging residents of all ages to use found natural, biodegradable materials to create miniature “gnome homes” that will be visible to trail users. Examples of materials that can be used for the whimsical dwellings are sticks, bark, pebbles, feathers, pine cones and nuts.
Those creating gnome homes are encouraged to maintain them and to submit a photo of their completed dwelling to be added to the project's Facebook page. The page can be found by searching for “Tiny Town: Blairsville, PA Riverfront Gnome Homes.”
Upcoming events the BCDA is planning include a Community Cleanup Day, April 27; a Natural Biodiversity Workshop, June 15; and a Knotweed Festival, Aug. 17. “Nothing is set in stone except for the date,” Persichetti said of the latter event, which is being co-chaired by Jim Garvin and Jon Herby. A rock-stacking contest has been proposed as part of the event, and the BCDA is hoping to enlist community organizations to conduct food sales.
For more information about the BCDA and its various projects, visit www.blairsville-pa.net or call 724-459-8588.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.